March 02, 2015

Sidewalk Flowers

by JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
For release March, 2015

On a walk from the grocery store with her distracted father, a young girl in a red-hooded jacket gathers an assortment of flowers–a dandelion, an aster, a vetch, heal-all–that poke their way through the sidewalk cracks.  Unlike her father whose focus is often on his cell phone, the little girl notices everything: a dead sparrow, a man sleeping on a bench, a dog on a lead.  Using the flowers she collects, the child finds a way to commemorate, cheer and share with those she knows and doesn't.

Sidewalk Flowers is a wordless picture book, which has the feel of a graphic novel with multiple frames and black-and-white illustrations and occasional splashes of colour.  This format works to emphasize the sombre landscape of normalcy so that the girl's flower gifts are beacons of life, like scattering seeds of joy. Author JonArnoLawson ensures that the young girl's efforts are initially depicted in high contrast to her surroundings but then they are augmented with her arrival home where her joyful scatterings are the norm, while illustrator Sydney Smith appropriately uses coarse and bold lines for the encompassing milieu, softening and colouring those elements that are significant to the young girl's journey and her light-heartedness.

 A story of a child's compassionate and playful activities in the overloaded and unavailable world in which most of us work and live, Sidewalk Flowers reminds us that, when we stop and smell the flowers along the way, we can improve the lives of others as well.

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